Steve Bruce delighted with German tour

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce
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ASIA, America and Africa were all mooted as possible pre-season destinations for Sunderland.

Yet surely none of those options would have offered the hassle-free 10 days the Black Cats have enjoyed in Germany, with the tour reaching its conclusion today.

For proof, you only have to glance up the road at the visa problems and harrowing schedule of 10 flights in 10 days which Newcastle have faced on the other side of the Atlantic.

John O’Shea’s slight hamstring injury aside, it has been plain sailing for Sunderland in their preparations at the made-to-measure Barsinghausen base.

The pitches, gymnasium, swimming pool and culinary requirements have all been befitting of a facility which houses the German national team.

Even the three friendly games have suited Sunderland’s purposes by pitting the Black Cats against three physical sides, not unlike those Steve Bruce’s men will encounter when the Premier League gets under way in three weeks.

For Bruce, it justifies the decision to end the club’s flirtation with Portugal, where Sunderland spent the previous two years since his arrival at the Stadium of Light.

Bruce told the Echo: “There were offers to fly to here, there and everywhere.

“But to be fair to the people who employ me, they said to me ‘do what you want’.

“It couldn’t be any better – everything about Germany is always top-class so it’s been a good trip.

“It’s not as hot as Portugal, but certainly the games have been tougher.

“That was the one area I looked at and thought ‘they’re tough for two weeks in’.

“But we got a good workout against Hannover and today’s game (against Borussia Monchengladbach) is difficult as well against another big club.

“It’s all about the preparation and I’m delighted with how it’s gone.

“It’s been excellent in terms of the heat and the training facilities.

“It’s vitally important the preparation for the new season is right and I’m a bit of a stickler for that.”

The experience for Sunderland has not been entirely positive.

O’Shea faces a race against time to be fit for the new season after tweaking his hamstring against Arminia Bielefeld last weekend, fellow new signings Wes Brown and Keiren Westwood remain on a light schedule and Asamoah Gyan only returned to full training on Thursday.

But at least Sunderland’s long-term injury victims have been given chance to get up to speed, with Michael Turner, Titus Bramble, Lee Cattermole and Kieran Richardson coming through the intense period unscathed.

“The big thing for me was to get Cattermole, Richardson, Turner and Bramble through pre-season after being out for four or five months,” said Bruce.

“We needed to get them added to the squad again.

“They all came back early and up to now, they all look very fit.

“All the players trained in a 35-minute game yesterday morning and they’re bright and bubbly.

“We’ve got a couple of niggles, but we’re on par hopefully to hit the ground running, which we need to do.”

Off-the-field, there has been an element of cabin fever developing in the sleepy German village, with the outside excursions limited to golf and an afternoon in Hannover.

But that has provided the ideal environment for Sunderland’s fresh faces to integrate with their new team-mates, particularly South Korean striker Ji Dong-won, who has not even had a translator for company.

Ji has impressed Bruce both in training and in the games, with the Sunderland boss confident the 20-year-old can make an impact in the Premier League.

“Of the new boys, I think Ji is the one who’s really caught my eye,” added Bruce.